Moore turns from goat to hero, keys Nats win

John Perrotto, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

PITTSBURGH -- Tyler Moore was pretty beaten down by the time he stepped to the plate in the top of the ninth inning.
The Washington Nationals right fielder was 0-for-3 and had struck out with the bases loaded in each of his previous two plate appearances.
However, Moore came through with a sacrifice fly to give the Nationals a 5-4 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday afternoon at PNC Park.
"It was a tough game for me," Moore said. "I wasn't seeing the ball (well). I was having one of those days. You start to have a lot of negative thoughts on a day like today. That's why it feels good to be able to drive in a big run in the end."
With the score tied 4-4, Ryan Zimmerman started the winning rally in the ninth by getting hit by a Tony Watson (1-1) pitch. Adam LaRoche followed with a single and the runners moved up on a double steal.
It was the 31st stolen base of Zimmerman's nine-year career and just the seventh steal for LaRoche in 10 seasons.
Moore followed by lofting a fly ball near the right-field line. Travis Snider made the catch but a sliding Zimmerman easily beat the throw.
"I thought those would be the last two guys ever to have a double steal," Moore said. "That turned out to be huge play, though. At that point, all I need to do was hit a fly ball."
Zimmerman said he and LaRoche took advantage of Watson having a slow delivery to home plate.
"We know who has what times (to the plate), what guys are slow and what guys are fast and what guys give a guy like me an actual chance to steal a base," Zimmerman said. "When you're looking at a pitcher that takes 1.8-2.0 seconds to get the ball to the plate, I should be able to steal off him."
The Nationals had scored just 11 runs in their previous six games, prompting manager Davey Johnson to call his first team meeting of the season before the game.
The results were mixed. While the Nationals scored five runs, they also had only one hit in 10 at-bats with runners in scoring position and left 11 runners on base.
"Well, we got a few more guys on base. We didn't get many in but it's a start," Johnson said. "Our guys keep grinding, though, and hopefully this is the start of that grinding paying off."
Tyler Clippard (2-1) pitched a scoreless eighth for the win and Rafael Soriano blanked the Pirates in the ninth for his 10th save. The Pirates helped Soriano when Russell Martin led off with a single but was thrown out at second base by center fielder Roger Bernadina as he tried to stretch the hit into a double.
Starling Marte and Clint Barmes hit two-run home runs for Pittsburgh. Barmes was the only player on either team with multiple hits as he had two.
Neither starter figured in the decision.
Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg gave up four runs and five hits in seven innings with one walk and eight strikeouts. Strasburg has not won in his last six starts since beating Miami on opening day on April 1.
He was not as dominant as in his other two starts against the Pirates, when he struck out 14 in his scintillating major-league debut in 2010 and then fanned 13 last May. However, Strasburg was satisfied with how the game ended.
"Not every game are you going to be lights out and hitting every spot," Strasburg said. "I made a couple of mistakes and they hit them and that's what they get paid to do. I was able to at least give us a chance to win and we won the game and that's a good feeling for a starting pitcher."
Jeff Locke went five-plus innings for the Pirates and had his scoreless innings streak stopped at 15 in the third. He allowed four runs -- three earned -- three hits and three walks while striking out three.
Washington's Wilson Ramos tied the score at 4-4 in the sixth inning when he bounced a two-run single up the middle off Justin Wilson, who had relieved Locke three batters earlier. The Nationals had opened the inning against Locke with a single by Bryce Harper and a walk to Zimmerman, and both scored on Ramos' hit.
"Watching the game I thought (Locke) was in and out on his delivery a little bit," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "I thought we'd be best served to pinch off that inning and maintain a lead. I thought that with bringing Wilson in with the RPMs he could bring, that was our best bet to get out of that inning."
The Nationals opened the scoring in the top of the third on Ian Desmond's sacrifice fly.
Marte answered in the bottom half of the inning when he hit a two-run home run, his fourth of the season, to the right-center field seats off Strasburg to put the Pirates ahead 2-1.
Washington tied it in the fourth when Zimmerman led off with a triple into the right-field corner and scored on LaRoche's sacrifice fly.
Barmes put the Pirates in front 4-2 in the fifth with his first homer of the season in his 77th at-bat.
"(Strasburg) has great stuff but he didn't seem to be throwing as hard," Barmes said. "We had some chances against him but it wasn't quite enough."
NOTES: Washington center fielder Denard Span sat out Saturday's game with a bruised left ankle after fouling two pitches off it on Friday. It was the first game he missed this season. ... Moore was subbing for Nationals right fielder Jayson Werth, who missed his second straight game and fourth in the last five with a strained right hamstring. He is also expected to sit out Sunday's game. ... Pittsburgh right-hander Charlie Morton was examined by team doctors Saturday, a day after he left his rehab start with Class AAA Indianapolis at the end of the third inning because of shoulder inflammation. Morton underwent an MRI and the results may not be available until Monday. However, Morton said he felt better Saturday and was optimistic that he did not suffer any structural damage. ... Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez (2-2, 5.34) faces Pirates lefty Wandy Rodriguez (2-1, 3.91) on Sunday in the finale of the three-game series.

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